Ultima mano. Unfinished Paintings and the End of the Pictorial Act

Laura Valterio, M.A.

Mostly forgotten or destroyed after their creation, unfinished paintings have been often disregarded as irrelevant objects even in art-historical research. This project focuses on incomplete and unsuccessful artistic undertakings in the belief that they possess, on the contrary, an overlooked artistic and intellectual potential. Moving from the critical category of imperfezione the study collects and examines historical views on unfinished paintings between the 16th and the 17th century, looking for a definition of their problematic material nature, as well as their status as art-theoretical objects. On the other hand, it investigates the metaphoric and the figurations that early modern painters resorted in order to conceptualize and represent the moment of the conclusion of their work. This survey aims to rewrite at the same time the problem of artistic failure in historical perspective, reconsidered here as an intrinsic component of creative activity rather than a factor of disarray that compromises the design of the work of art. In other cases, the interruption of the creative process seems instead to embody the visual expression of intended acts of artistic negation, of performative "not-doing", a circumstance that raises the question of the painter’s inactivity as integral part of his artistic production. By analyzing the status of these marginal, almost accidental images, this short history of imperfection intends to underline the productive potential of the missing and the failed, and to emphasize their conceptual and formal contribution to the history of Early Modern Art.

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